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Mega corridor moves closer

Foothill Road, looking south from the intersection of East McAndrews Road in Medford, is being widened as part of a “mega corridor” project. [Mail Tribune/file photo]
Medford City Council will move the so-called ‘mega-corridor’ plan closer to fruition Thursday

The “mega corridor” along Foothill Road in Medford is almost primed for construction.

Jackson County is poised to give the city $3.25 million to take over ownership of Foothill from Hillcrest Road to Delta Waters.

Even though the portion of Foothill is inside city limits, it is controlled by Jackson County.

The City Council Thursday is expected to approve the transfer of the road to gear up for a major widening project, with bids due Nov. 4 and construction expected to begin in spring 2023.

Utility relocation has already started on the Medford portion of the corridor, which will be built with $40 million in city, state and federal grants.

Construction is expected to last until 2026, creating potential delays for motorists through the area.

Once the council passes a resolution supporting the transfer of ownership, the county will hold a public hearing prior to officially turning over the roadway, a process that has been in the works for years.

John Vial, city Public Works director, said, “We signed an agreement with the county in 2020.”

He said the city is providing $20.5 million and the federal government another $15.5 million. That, along with the $3.25 million, brings it close to $40 million.

Vial said the city has applied for a $5 million federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant that could cover cost escalation.

“If there are any additional costs above and beyond that amount, the city will be responsible for the rest of it,” Vial said, while expressing concern about the current state of the construction industry, hard hit by rising prices.

The city will turn the two-lane road into a four-lane thoroughfare, with turn lanes and bike paths.

Dubbed mega corridor by the city, this project is a key part of an effort to turn Foothill into an north-south route that will provide an alternative to Interstate 5, which could fail in an earthquake.

A collaboration between the Oregon Department of Transportation, Jackson County and Medford, the route will provide a shortcut from White City to Phoenix.

ODOT has already built two vital connections along the corridor, the North Phoenix interchange and the massive roundabout at Highway 140.

In May, the City Council approved the last of the 60 right-of-way purchases to allow the widening of the road to four lanes.

Some areas will not have the turn lane, particularly where the roadway narrows through an electrical substation near Lone Pine Road. A bike and pedestrian lane that will be built along with the widening project was also shifted to the west to avoid the substation. In addition to the signal at Cedar Links, the city plans to install a signal at the south Foothill off-ramp from McAndrews Road.

The widening will end to the north of Delta Waters Road, but Jackson County has plans to smooth out many of the sharper curves along Foothill with a minimum speed limit of 45 mph through some portions.

Medford has already widened the route south of Hillcrest Road to Barnett Road. Foothill turns into North Phoenix Road at the intersection with Hillcrest.

All the various pieces of the mega corridor project will cost about $130 million, including the major portions already completed, from federal, state, county and city coffers.

As part of the Foothill improvement plan, the city is scheduled to build an extension of South Stage Road on the east side of the freeway. Long-term plans call for an overpass on I-5 to connect the west and east sections of South Stage Road.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.